Friday at the Circuit of Catalunya opens in harsh tones: the Spanish driver Fernando Alonso during today's press conference, which MotorLAT also attended, made tough statements about the FIA, accusing race direction of incompetence and lacking knowledge of racing.
Asked if he saw improvements following the restructure that came after last season's controversial final championship in Abu Dhabi, Alonso was clear: “Not. We saw a couple of things already that showed we still need to improve a lot”.
In particular the Alpine driver made some references to the events happened during the last GP in Miami.
First of all Alonso commented the penalty given to him by the FIA for cutting a chicane: "We believe it was very unfair and incompetence from the stewards."
He said he had immediately given back the time gained on Mick Schumacher after the cutting incident but the stewards had looked only at the fact that he had then gone faster in the next section of the track, and had failed to respond to Alpine showing them telemetry data to prove his point.
"They were not very professional. I missed one corner and gave back the time. They saw the pink color [for fastest] on the next sector and took it without asking for proof.”
"We arrived back with the proofs and they were packing up, not even in the room. We showed them the data and they found themselves with their hands tied because they had already issued the penalty. It was very bad. It is something that should not happen in F1 with the professionalism and the standards F1 has right now.”
Alonso also expressed his disagreement towards Niels Wittich, race director at all five races this year, for the decision to not respond to drivers' requests for an impact-absorbing barrier to be installed at a corner where the Ferrari driver's Carlos Sainz crashed in Friday practice in Miami.
Sainz during the drivers’ briefing had reported that the impact had been very harsh despite the low speed, but was told that it was a singular accident and no barrier was needed. But, on the contrary, the next day the second Alpine driver Esteban Ocon had almost the exact same accident, damaging his car's chassis.
“We pushed to have some barriers there and nobody did anything.” - said Alonso - “When you don't have that knowledge of racing, it is difficult to talk.”
"We just need to keep improving that we are the only ones driving the cars and experiencing the crashes and when we feel something is needed, we should be listened to”.
In support of Alonso’s comments, McLaren driver Lando Norris added: "Fernando's a guy you would listen to in terms of the experience he has in racing. If he says what he says, he's probably got a bit of a point, at least.”
The Spaniard said that in Miami and some other occasions they weren't heard because it seemed like the focus was in another place instead of most important problems. Wittich in fact has being pointed for taking a by-the-letter approach to the rules, which has led for example to drivers being told they cannot wear any jewellery in the car.
Now Alonso's hopes are on the new race director Eduardo Freitas, who takes over from Wittich for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix. "There is a new race director here. Freitas has a lot more experience at World Endurance Championship and the top level and that will already improve things.”
Proof of this Ocon said he had already spoken to Freitas in Spain this week and been told that after analysis of both accidents there would be changes at the Miami track next year.
In conclusion, the two-time World Champion commented the overall dissatisfaction among teams and at commercial rights holders F1 at some of the FIA's actions this year, among them he mentioned the decision by new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem to delay approval of a plan for the number of sprint races to be doubled to six next year.